By JULIA DAIA BORE
A NATIONAL Court judge has called on provincial and local level governments to ensure payments for all Village Court magistrates, peace and good order committee members and land mediators in all local level governments are paid directly into their individual bank accounts.
“Otherwise, cheque payments should be raised and marked ‘account payee only’, so that they can only be paid into the bank accounts of the claimants,” Justice Graham Ellis told a court hearing in Mendi, Southern Highlands, last week.
He also advised that all documents relating to such payments must be signed, dated and filed away to create a paper trail for purposes of transparency and accountability.
Ellis said misappropriation of public monies was prevalent in the Southern Highlands, citing the recent jailing of a former councilpresident, Andrew Mambea, for misappropriating K8,070 an offence he committed in Mendi in mid-November 2005.
Ellis said that this would ultimately deter corruption and misappropriation of public monies from their intended original allocations by would-be white-collar criminals.
Last week, the Wabag-based judge heard the matter in Mendi and sentenced the accused to five years jail term with hard labour.
“The level of corruption in SHP was such that a state of emergency was declared and police officers from the National Fraud Squad came to Mendi.
“Their investigations resulted in the conviction of this offender.
“In this case, it is not just a matter of punishing the conduct of this offender, it was also necessary to send a message that would deter others from dishonesty in relations to public monies; then there may be a significant difference to the government of this nation,” Ellis said during sentencing.
“Unless and until the message is clearly understood that money belonging to the state was not like a trough into which every pig was entitled to put his (or her) snout, money would be stolen from the state, the system of justice in PNG, in order to achieve its aim of a just, safe and secure society, must have a system where public money would not leak out like water leaking from a hole from the side of a tank which should be going out through the tap, in this case, the serious nature of the offence stems not from the amount misappropriated (K8,070).
“But from the fact that you (the accused) were a council president at that time (in 2005), from the nature of the money that was misappropriated and the number of people who should have received that money.
“There was a need for elected officials to know that if they misappropriate public money, they can expect a significant term of imprisonment,” Ellis said.